Thursday, 6 September 2012

Our Big Story

Big history presents an overview of all that we know in a loosely chronological order. It presents human knowledge from a scientific and anthropocentric approach, and tries to include all that we know about how the universe around us came about but also how life begun and how culture radiated from life. It thus presents an intensely humanistic approach to the history of everything. This metanarrative is extremely powerful, and it has been slowly integrated into the collective unconscious of humanity since the beginning of culture but has greatly intensified over the last 100 years. 

Big history could soon become the prevailing metanarrative, and it could be the metanarrative that could lead us into transculturalism. History would have to be understood as an active process and not just a mere recording of past events. Just like modern historians look at the different ways history can be interpreted, so do big historians study the plurality of perspectives of big history. Physics and science similarly evolve as new discoveries and new theories are assessed. Big history is therefore not static, but an ever evolving multi-perspective narrative, whose students actively seek to redefine it, reinterpret it and refine it.

Language is based on archetypes that arise from biological drama such as the influx of sense data, birth, parenthood, sex, survival, nourishment, grooming, social behaviour, object interaction etc. These archetypes act as the basic units of symbols, based on which a primordial grammar arises. Symbols are put into order according to this grammar, creating larger congregations of meaning and thus more complex symbols and abstractions. Elaborate formulations of these symbols lead to stories largely based on observations of social relationships and natural phenomena, creating human drama. These stories evolved into myths that sought to explain various aspects of reality through an extremely imaginative and creative rethinking and reordering of symbol based language.   

A very obvious connection can be observed between nature, language and culture (human stories). Besides that one leads to the other in a linear manner, it is also self-reflexive in that human stories essentially are about understanding nature. (Human stories and culture are themselves extremely self-reflexive as illustrated by post-modernism.) Nature in this way can be seen as essentially creating the means to observe itself in ever more efficient ways, and potentially dramatically altering itself in the future through the abstractions of these observations. Myths thus provided a platform for intellectual contemplations that evolved into philosophical thinking. Both western and eastern philosophy, reinterpreted the myths and formulated a new level of understanding, that of the metanarrative. In the west, competing philosophies were like mini-metanarratives fighting for space and the shaping of consciousness. In the east, grand integrated metanarratives arose that were extremely comprehensive and complex. 

Big history could become a conscious metanarrative that includes all previous metanarratives into its own scheme of things, viewing them all as part of this bigger evolutionary process that stems from linguistic and genetic archetypes. This is how big history should be told, a story about a never ending story of stories, a story of all stories, but nevertheless, merely a story.

metanarratives - religions, philosophies, sciences, big history
stories - memes - human drama
symbols - language - code
archetypes - biological drama
instincts - a priori knowledge - neural patterns

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